Monthly Archives: November 2014

The circle of life. The Little Elder Tree Mother. Elderberry syrup and Tea!

Elder tree
Sambucus nigra
Sambucus spp
Family: Caprifoliaceae


berries still green…. these will ripen to a blue/black color


woodland, near streams, fields, gardens

more info

Common Names: Lady Elder, Frau Holle, Pipe tree, Sambucus spp, American Elder, Common Elder, Black Elder, Bour Tree, and European Black Elder.

Parts Used: Flowers and Ripe Berries only.


Potassium nitrate, sambucin, sambunigrin, sugars. The complex sugars of the berries are the immune-active fraction.

Elderberries are high in Vitamins A and C. Also Quercetin, an anti-oxidant. Elderberries are also anti-inflammatory and anti-viral.

They are diaphoretic, make you sweat and help a fever to spike and then lower it. Elderberry syrup, for instance, can prevent a flu and if you have one it will shorten the duration. See dosage amounts toward end of the post.

See: Mountain Rose Herbs

Harvest and storage: Harvest berries when black. Pick flowers early on a dewless morning. Spread flower heads on clean kitchen paper and leave in a warm, dark dry place for several days.

Leaves are used as a pesticide only.
Herbal insecticide:

The Elder tree is resistant to honey fungus. To repel aphids, mites, leafhoppers, whitefly and cabbage loopers from the garden: make a strong infusion of the leaves.

Leaves and Branches are Poisonous!!!

See my post about harvesting milkweed. I tell a story about my friends goats. You cannot feed goats cut off leaves or branches from the elderberry tree!
my friend’s story

But the ripe berries and the flowers are so healing and make delicious preparations!


I sweetened a homemade Elderberry Syrup with Raw, Wild Desert Honey! And I will show you how. Like the Elder Mar or mother… I will take us on a circular journey through fairytales, herbal wisdom and folklore.

To start with, please meet Little Elder-Tree Mother!


Little Elder Tree Mother


Hans Christian Andersen wrote a charming tale, the Little Elder-Tree Mother, of the circle of life and the gracious spirit of the Elderberry tree. In the story a little boy gets sick with an illness and his mother makes him an elder flower tea. (Elderberry syrup would be a sweet cure too.) Sick, in bed and recuperating because of the healing elder flower tea…a young boy seeks entertainment through stories.

Elder flower heals

And a delightful tale is woven for him, by an elderly man who is his neighbor. The young boy sips the healing nourishment his mother made for him and he slips into the world of dreams and stories of the Elder tree and its spirits.


Everyone in the little boy’s village appreciates and loves the Elder tree. And with time, so does he. It begins as he peers into the teapot and is “read the promise of elder tea flowers.”

more of the story here

I really love this story as the old woman is looked at as kindly and a keeper of the magic healing and cycle of life. All as it unfolds under the keeping sanctuary of the Elder tree.

The elder tree was revered in ancient times as sacred but, the association of the elder tree went through a tainted time. Being associated with the cross in Christianity and tragic forebodings.

elder tree and folklore

However, the undercurrent remains. That regardless of history and the attempted overthrow of one culture to another such as pagan, to monotheism… the undercurrent of pagan knowledge and subsequent knowledge and remedy remains.

I think herbal folkways here.

The healing power of elder flowers and elderberries has remained with the traditional use and remedies such as: cordials, teas, vinegars (like a balsamic,) syrups, lozenges, wines and candies, and food.
Even oxymels. Probably as many uses as can be thought up.


image source

Folklore and folkways can be so healing.

The Elder tree has always been revered, with healing remedies and recipes, treasured and passed on.

Tradition of use, that remains today… indicates so.

Rosemary Gladstar, a well known herbalist talks about the Elder tree. That it is known as Elder Mar. The Elder Mother. It often has been planted on the edge of gardens and I have also read that if an Elder tree grew on the land, it was considered auspicious to build a home and make a life there. Due to the protective nature of the Elder tree and the healing that it gives.



Rosemary talks about plants as our elders and teachers since they were on the planet before us and have served us in our ability to be here too.

She also inspires me to make elderberry blossom fritters. Yum!

Watch Rosemary and the Elder Tree


How to Make Delicious Homemade Elderberry Syrup!

I do not have Elderberry trees growing near me but many of you do! Harvest your berries in the late summer and early Fall when they are dark. In this case black berries. I bought my elderberries at a local Herb shop in Santa Fé, New Mexico. Otherwise I would have gladly foraged them!

You can buy dried Elderberries from Herbs etc. or Mountain Rose Herbs above. Do you have an Herb store nearby? Or an Elderberry tree?… 🙂


I jotted down some notes but had to revise my recipe. I used 1 Cup dried Elderberries and the original 4 cups only simmered to less than 1 cup of syrup. Even adding honey would not equal as much as I hoped. So I added 6 Cups water to 1 Cup elderberries. I got a full sized pint glass plus a bit more for my little syrup pitcher for tomorrow’s pancakes. Yum!


I added raw honey to this little pitcher of syrup but my phone died waiting for the elderberry decoction to cool! So it is a full pitcher now! Can’t wait to try it!

I made a syrup using dried berries but fresh or frozen work great too! You can also dry or freeze your excess berries for future use!

What You Need:


Elderberries, dried or fresh. 1 Cup dried or 2 Cups fresh.


Ground cinnamon… 1 teaspoon or 2 cinnamon sticks



Raw Honey

6 Cups water


A mesh strainer and/or cheesecloth and funnel


A kitchen thermometer can help

Use a non-reactive pot. Not aluminum!

And syrup jars 🙂


This is an easy recipe and one you can keep on hand!
One batch lasts a month in the refrigerator or freeze the syrup in trays. Keep dried or frozen berries on hand to make more. Make a yummy soda using elderberry syrup and bubbly water. Add frozen elderberry syrup cubes for a very yummy soda. Use the syrup on icecream, in yogurt or as a healthy flu preventive or remedy!

It’s easy to make!

Take 1 Cup dried or 2 Cups fresh elderberries
Add 1 tsp ground cinnamon
6 Cups water
Bring to roiling boil (important, kills yeast on berries)
Simmer for 1/2 hour.

Strain into jars. Make sure mixture is not too hot. Glass jars are best and too hot of liquid can crack or break the container!

Use thermometer and wait for the juice to be 100°

Any hotter is not good because you want to add the raw honey when it won’t get killed off because of the heat. Raw honey is one of the reasons this syrup is so healthfilled!

Raw Honey is Healthy!

Honey Bees!

Also bees try to maintain their hive to around 100° also. Isn’t that amazing?!

small steps can help the life of bees!

Mix in the honey and refrigerate. Keeps for 1 month.
Also brandy increases shelf life of this syrup and other ingredients like apple cider vinegar, cloves and ginger can be added.


Desert Garden Spaces


Speaking of Bees… my friend grows a lovely flower garden every year. I think his neighbor wonders why there aren’t more vegetables. But flowers are so beautiful. And flowers heal, smell wonderful and are just gorgeous. So the next time someone wrinkles up their nose to you when you say you want to grow flowers… remember…

An organic flower garden…

Really makes the life of bees!

Here are my friend’s beautiful flowers from his garden and some very happy bees… on their way to make that health yielding honey.

Lucky Us! Explore this thriving desert garden for a while. And a bee’s perspective!





And many thanks to my friend the gardener, for this lovely garden and bee tour!



Elderberry syrup… you keep us healthy and here is how:

I found Dosage Recommendations in a helpful site posted below.

Check it out!

(excerpted below)

“Dosage Take 1 Tbs. 2 – 3 x/day as needed to boost the immune system. I usually take elderberry syrup if I feel I might get sick and continue to take it until all symptoms have cleared. If you do get sick or are already sick, continue to take elderberry syrup through the course of illness. Elderberry syrup is an excellent remedy for children. Children under 10 should take half the adult dose. Children under 5, one quarter the adult dose. Children ages 1 – 2, 30 drops. Children under 1 should not have honey and therefore should not have elderberry syrup made with honey.”

Nurses make Elderberry syrup too!


Cinnamon and Elderberries getting ready to boil then simmer


Mashing the juice out of the cooked berries


A fun and useful Herb book that gave me some good info about Elder.

And finally,

Still Life with Strainer meets up with


Elderberry healing and yummy syrup for pancakes tomorrow. And thank goodness I added the honey when it cooled. Yum!



Thankyou for taking this journey with me and Enjoy Your Elderberry Syrup. A tradition for years to come and to pass on!



This pancake mix rocks! And elderberry syrup!

pretty elderberries in silhouette…